πŸ’Ώ GOTHAM ’89 Video Game Vinyl Review From Shapeshift Records πŸ’Ώ @shapeshiftvinyl #Vinyl #VideoGameVinyl

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Purchase Link - https://shapeshiftrecords.com/products/gotham-89

A perfectly-timed release, with Batman being on a lot of minds following Matt Reeves’ (excellent) The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as the scowl under the cowl – Shapeshift Records’ GOTHAM ’89 is a re-imagining of Danny Elfman’s 1989 Batman score as a 16-bit epic. Good.

Considering that this is Shapeshift records’ first release, it’s an impressive achievement as the presentation, design, sound – and quite frankly –the idea behind the album is all awesome.

The two heavyweight 180g records are ensconced in two sleeves and held in a single cover. The front cover art – by Tom Pollock Jr – really captures that gothic, retro vibe of the movie, with a grinning Joker mouth looming above the Gotham City skyline. The only subtle hint as to the title on the cover – which is pure art – is that ‘GOTHAM ‘89’ is painted on a shadowy bridge in the lower right. There’s a lot to take in for Batman fans in the image, the GCPD blimp shining its spotlight onto the streets below, the bat signal enshrouded in fog, beaming up over AXIS Chemicals, and Wayne Tower standing proud at the centre of the city, two spires at the top reminiscent of the ears on Batman’s cowl. The colours used as well - reds and blues, echoing the records themselves, which we’ll get into later – evoke a dark mood, the crime and grime of the city seemingly rising up like dirty heat through the urban darkness.

The rear of the album features four screenshots in the upper-right, taken from the imagined 16-bit version of the Batman game that never was. I have to say, based on these screenshots, I really, really want this game to be made! Each screen sports key scenes from the Tim Burton movie, captured here in all their pixelated goodness. Below the screenshots is the album’s title in a rich red font, and to the left of this are the 31 tracks that make up the record. Finally, on the bottom half of this side, there is an explanation of the soundtrack being a SNES-imagining of the classic Danny Elfman score.

The two records are both in separate sleeves, and are red and blue, to reflect police sirens spinning on your turntable. The front of the first sleeve is mostly taken up by some words from Tom Pollock Jr, who, as well as being the brains behind this whole operation, is also the creator of the fantastic artwork. Here, he discusses the inspiration behind Gotham ’89 and mentions the impact that the original movie had on him, statements with which I resonate. The background to this text is a ‘don’t walk’ sign and a darkened wall with some graffiti on it, including a very familiar name…

The flip side of the sleeve illustrates one of the most key moments in Bruce Wayne’s life, the death of his parents. Wonderfully noir in tone, this shows a young Bruce Wayne kneeling at the head of the bodies of his parents, as they lay in pools of blood, Bruce’s shadow being the dark reflection of what he would eventually become. A very striking image.

Moving on to the second sleeve, this one depicts an ‘80s gaming setup, with a GOTHAM ’89 game cartridge in a ‘Shapeshift Entertainment’ gaming console and plugged into an old TV atop a VCR. The on-screen image is of the famous tower sequence at the movie's climax. Surrounding this are various VHS tapes, action figures and movie posters. Good. The reverse shows a typically shadowy Batman standing in front of the infamous neon AXIS Chemicals sign at night.

The records themselves are the aforementioned blue and red ‘police siren’ colours (half red, half blue) with the inner circles of each depicting a screenshot from the fictional video game – each record is pressed on 180g gram vinyl. The music was composed by the Czech-based musician Anar Yusufov and was mastered for vinyl by Mauri Merko.

This really is a passion project, and that comes through in the design and thought put into the presentation, of which I am very clearly a big fan. The decision to re-create Elfman’s score using the Super Nintendo style sound chip as opposed to say, a Mega Drive one, is a very good choice due to how well the SNES handled the orchestral genre. From the moment that timeless theme kicks in, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face, as it dawned on me how specific this is; a SNES-styled soundtrack from a fictional video game based on a movie. Brilliant. 

This is no novelty album though, the quality of Elfman’s soundtrack, the cues and subsequent emotional impact are all here – and images from the movie flit through your mind as you listen, especially as that oh-so-familiar musical motif rears its be-cowled head. I’m quite certain I had a grin on my face for most of the album, especially those wonderfully zany circus tunes that herald the Joker’s presence. Anar Yusufov has weaved some serious magic here, whether it be the swelling grandeur of the Batman theme; marching snare over a stabbing string section; rising and rousing orchestration, stripped back ominousness or – a long time personal fave – the finger-snapping genius of Prince’s Partyman. That’s right, you don’t just get the full Danny Elfman score…there are selections from the soundtrack here, and very luckily for me, my favourites! Partyman, Trust and Scandalous are all here in their brilliant 16-bit glory. 

The only issue I noticed in terms of audio was a volume boost on certain tracks and in specific passages. Some songs on the second record had differing volumes, with Prince’s Trust especially seeming to be louder than the rest of the tracks on that side…not that I minded, of course. I preferred the second disc, personally – the music is more intense, reflective of how the latter half of the film builds to a crescendo, as opposed to some of the more delicate moments on the first record, which reflect the air of intrigue and mystery that shroud that section of the score, as opposed to the action-packed bombasticism of the finale.

Right, I’m off to slip into the shadows and not be able to turn my neck properly.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the excellent review. It pushed me over the edge from "Wait" to "Now". Well written, thorough, and a fan. Thanks!


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